The Enablers: 3 Unsung Energy Technologies

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Welcome back for another round of energy entrepreneurs. I want you to meet Lynn Jurich, co-founder of SunRun, CEO Siva Sivaram of Twin Creeks Technologies, and Alex Tkachenko, President of Siluria. They're the latest interviewees in our series on The Energy Puzzle. I think of this series as our opportunity to show you technologies that aren't necessarily making headlines like Tesla or Solyndra, but are part of how innovation is changing the energy system. 


Take Siva Sivaram's Twin Creeks Technologies. They've come up with a machine that allows them to cut very, very thin silicon wafers. Rather than becoming one of the many solar manufacturers (who have to compete against very cheap Chinese panels), Twin Creeks decided to use its technology to make equipment that it can sell to those would-be competitors. They're part of an emerging supply chain that's helping make each and every piece of solar electricity get cheaper. 
The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal in conversation with industry entrepreneurs shaping our future. See full coverage
On the exact other end, you'll find Lynn Jurich's SunRun (video at top), which takes money from lenders and uses it buy solar panels that it leases to homeowners. They sell solar-as-a-service, which reduces the high upfront costs that have long plagues the industry. It's not a technology innovation, but it's transforming the way that solar is done in this country. 

And lest you think that we were too focused on renewables, we have Alex Tkachenko, a former biochemist who is now at the helm of Siluria. That company's technology is fascinating in that it radically reduces the cost of transforming natural gas (which we're awash in right now!) into ethylene, the most widely used organic compound in the world. It's used in plastics and other chemicals. Normally ethylene is produced by "cracking" oil, but Siluria's technology allows them to build the compound from natural gas. They see it as a gamechanger as the easy-to-reach oil gets pumped out of the ground, and a possible route for all the natural gas that the extractive industries have discovered through fracking and other advanced recovery techniques. 
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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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